Trump's defense team needs work: A look at Saturday's performance

I don't mean to be hyper-critical of Saturday morning's presentation by the president's defense counsel, but we get only one crack at the whip, and we have to be as close to perfection as possible. 

Pat Cipollone's opening remarks on Saturday morning before the Senate and the country were excellent.  Clear.  Interesting.  Provocative.  Substantive.  Left us all wanting to hear more.  His ending, however, fell flat.  He needed a real cliffhanger to keep people hanging on until Monday.  If this was his "Who Shot JR Moment," it ended with a real thud.  It was a missed opportunity to connect his opening with all we heard and will hear, and, while I think he tried to do it, it sounded more as though he had run out of steam and wanted to scoot out of class one minute before the bell rang.  Very disappointing.

After a while, you can't keep asking why the Democrats persistently withheld evidence without ultimately clarifying to a possibly ignorant or confused audience what the answer is.  If that answer is that they don't have enough evidence to establish an impeachable offense, so they lied about, omitted, and skewed testimony and evidence to make a fake case...then say it at some point.  If they want to say Nadler and Schiff have a history of lying at consequential moments in recent history and have not hesitated to do the same in regard to the impeachment, then say it!  Whatever it is, don't wait until Monday or Tuesday to say it, after a weekend has passed and people are back at work, their attention having shifted.  Sure, put in a teaser, but don't ask why for two hours and not give a hint where you want to lead us.  Hold the audience's attention by making it clear you will continue to lay out that case in the days to come, and the senators will come to understand with a little patience and great clarity why they must acquit.   

Modify a line from Johnny Cochran: if the evidence is s---, you must acquit.  Something!  Come on, people: you must be more creative and interesting to an audience already bleary-eyed from 24 hours of Democrats bloated with hubris and condescension berating Republican senators, hurling endless insults and invective at the president, and beating multiple dead horses on the tenuous theories they have sewn together from random pieces of whole cloth.   

Mr. Purpura's presentation was riveting.  He should do the whole thing — obviously, we have a few other attorneys to hear from, and one guy for possibly 24 hours would be monotonous and deadly, but from what I could see so far, the defense team needs more advocates with his style and pizzazz.  This is as much TV as it is a solemn Senate trial, and we need attorneys who are captivating speakers, not snoozers.  More on that to come. 

Jay Sekulow was way off.  But he has been on every TV appearance during this entire fiasco.  He is not himself — maybe something is going on with him.  I don't know.  But if he can't cut the mustard, find someone else to do it.  His first half had something to do with Mueller and Russia and Ukraine.  I honestly could not follow any of it.  He definitely lost the audience.  People I was watching it with were confused and left the room to do something else.  He talked about common sense, but this was just nonsense.  He seemed to regain steam for the remainder, when he was citing testimony that Trump had a history of supporting Ukraine.  That was done fairly well, but for the broader viewing public and the Senate, he lost momentum.  He also should have made more use of video and visual aids so people could make a visual connection between the quotes and the cast of characters.  It's just more effective.

This was the low point.

Philbin is your quintessential "sits in the bowels of the law library and drafts briefs" attorney.  He was thorough, clear, organized, substantive, easy to follow — but, unfortunately, a real snoozer.  He's the guy who should just write the brief and have someone else more dynamic deliver it.  Yeah, he's way more accomplished than I am, but I was a litigator and know there are those who write briefs and those who argue before the court and a whole range of talents in between.  They require different skills, temperaments, and personalities.  You have to be honest with who you are and know where you fall on that continuum.  Philbin didn't hurt the president, and his arguments were succinct and cogent, but he was just the kind of guy you forget is talking.

In general, the president's defense team needs to do a better job explaining who the people are they are quoting, if nothing else, to refresh the recollection of the audience.  The Democrats put on a long and winding presentation.  It's hard to remember who is who, who said what, and what everyone said and did.  But if you see a video of Ambassador Sondlund or Yovanovitch saying something that contradicts something you recall him or her saying earlier in the Democrats' case, bingo: the light bulb goes off, and connections are made.  Senators are, after all, jurors.

Overall, I give it a B, mostly because there were problems in the presentation.  The substance garners an A- (the minus because of that black hole Sekulow took us into). 

This isn't just a normal defense in a courtroom.  They are actually quite boring — hardly the stuff of TV courtroom drama we are fed on the tube.  But this is directed at a TV audience as well as a Senate that has probably had enough already.  Frankly, it needed way more oomph and some tweaking in regard to clarity.

I don't mean to sound like a malcontent or for any of this to come across as histrionics, but this is our only chance to defend the president in one of the most consequential political moments in history.  We need a Dream Team to bring their A game.  There can be no room for mistakes, weaknesses, or experimentation.  This is a time for quintessential professionalism by the best.  If they can't bring their A game and make those lay-ups, three-pointers, or foul shots under incredible pressure, then they need to be taken out of the game before we lose and replaced with people who can bring on the magic. 

It was a decent start to what should have been a blockbuster.  Those on Trump's defense counsel team who presented Saturday morning should review their performances by watching them immediately afterward.  Knowing this is about Donald Trump, they should put their egos aside and step aside, allowing others who can do a better job to present his defense and get an acquittal.

Image: Gage Skidmore via Flickr.

I don't mean to be hyper-critical of Saturday morning's presentation by the president's defense counsel, but we get only one crack at the whip, and we have to be as close to perfection as possible. 

Pat Cipollone's opening remarks on Saturday morning before the Senate and the country were excellent.  Clear.  Interesting.  Provocative.  Substantive.  Left us all wanting to hear more.  His ending, however, fell flat.  He needed a real cliffhanger to keep people hanging on until Monday.  If this was his "Who Shot JR Moment," it ended with a real thud.  It was a missed opportunity to connect his opening with all we heard and will hear, and, while I think he tried to do it, it sounded more as though he had run out of steam and wanted to scoot out of class one minute before the bell rang.  Very disappointing.

After a while, you can't keep asking why the Democrats persistently withheld evidence without ultimately clarifying to a possibly ignorant or confused audience what the answer is.  If that answer is that they don't have enough evidence to establish an impeachable offense, so they lied about, omitted, and skewed testimony and evidence to make a fake case...then say it at some point.  If they want to say Nadler and Schiff have a history of lying at consequential moments in recent history and have not hesitated to do the same in regard to the impeachment, then say it!  Whatever it is, don't wait until Monday or Tuesday to say it, after a weekend has passed and people are back at work, their attention having shifted.  Sure, put in a teaser, but don't ask why for two hours and not give a hint where you want to lead us.  Hold the audience's attention by making it clear you will continue to lay out that case in the days to come, and the senators will come to understand with a little patience and great clarity why they must acquit.   

Modify a line from Johnny Cochran: if the evidence is s---, you must acquit.  Something!  Come on, people: you must be more creative and interesting to an audience already bleary-eyed from 24 hours of Democrats bloated with hubris and condescension berating Republican senators, hurling endless insults and invective at the president, and beating multiple dead horses on the tenuous theories they have sewn together from random pieces of whole cloth.   

Mr. Purpura's presentation was riveting.  He should do the whole thing — obviously, we have a few other attorneys to hear from, and one guy for possibly 24 hours would be monotonous and deadly, but from what I could see so far, the defense team needs more advocates with his style and pizzazz.  This is as much TV as it is a solemn Senate trial, and we need attorneys who are captivating speakers, not snoozers.  More on that to come. 

Jay Sekulow was way off.  But he has been on every TV appearance during this entire fiasco.  He is not himself — maybe something is going on with him.  I don't know.  But if he can't cut the mustard, find someone else to do it.  His first half had something to do with Mueller and Russia and Ukraine.  I honestly could not follow any of it.  He definitely lost the audience.  People I was watching it with were confused and left the room to do something else.  He talked about common sense, but this was just nonsense.  He seemed to regain steam for the remainder, when he was citing testimony that Trump had a history of supporting Ukraine.  That was done fairly well, but for the broader viewing public and the Senate, he lost momentum.  He also should have made more use of video and visual aids so people could make a visual connection between the quotes and the cast of characters.  It's just more effective.

This was the low point.

Philbin is your quintessential "sits in the bowels of the law library and drafts briefs" attorney.  He was thorough, clear, organized, substantive, easy to follow — but, unfortunately, a real snoozer.  He's the guy who should just write the brief and have someone else more dynamic deliver it.  Yeah, he's way more accomplished than I am, but I was a litigator and know there are those who write briefs and those who argue before the court and a whole range of talents in between.  They require different skills, temperaments, and personalities.  You have to be honest with who you are and know where you fall on that continuum.  Philbin didn't hurt the president, and his arguments were succinct and cogent, but he was just the kind of guy you forget is talking.

In general, the president's defense team needs to do a better job explaining who the people are they are quoting, if nothing else, to refresh the recollection of the audience.  The Democrats put on a long and winding presentation.  It's hard to remember who is who, who said what, and what everyone said and did.  But if you see a video of Ambassador Sondlund or Yovanovitch saying something that contradicts something you recall him or her saying earlier in the Democrats' case, bingo: the light bulb goes off, and connections are made.  Senators are, after all, jurors.

Overall, I give it a B, mostly because there were problems in the presentation.  The substance garners an A- (the minus because of that black hole Sekulow took us into). 

This isn't just a normal defense in a courtroom.  They are actually quite boring — hardly the stuff of TV courtroom drama we are fed on the tube.  But this is directed at a TV audience as well as a Senate that has probably had enough already.  Frankly, it needed way more oomph and some tweaking in regard to clarity.

I don't mean to sound like a malcontent or for any of this to come across as histrionics, but this is our only chance to defend the president in one of the most consequential political moments in history.  We need a Dream Team to bring their A game.  There can be no room for mistakes, weaknesses, or experimentation.  This is a time for quintessential professionalism by the best.  If they can't bring their A game and make those lay-ups, three-pointers, or foul shots under incredible pressure, then they need to be taken out of the game before we lose and replaced with people who can bring on the magic. 

It was a decent start to what should have been a blockbuster.  Those on Trump's defense counsel team who presented Saturday morning should review their performances by watching them immediately afterward.  Knowing this is about Donald Trump, they should put their egos aside and step aside, allowing others who can do a better job to present his defense and get an acquittal.

Image: Gage Skidmore via Flickr.